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The forest, much more than trees

A forest constitutes a set of relationships, not only between trees, soil, air, and water but also between different ways of life.

Trees in a forest.

Trees in a forest. / Photo: Unsplash - Reference Image

LatinAmerican Post | Jorge Guasp

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Leer en español: El bosque, mucho más que árboles

At first glance, a forest may seem like a mere set of trees. However, these grouped specimens represent a unique ecosystem, where the whole is much more than the sum of the parts. A forest is, in reality, a set of relationships, not only between trees, soil, air, and water but also between these elements and various life forms.

The forest not only provides shade and wood

According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), in its article Sustainable Forests: Nature's Supermarket, “Forests are one of the great suppliers of nature. In addition to being a source of water and food security, forests provide us with many resources, such as paper and all its derivatives, medicines and renewable energy; they can also be considered low-tech air conditioning generators, as well as effective air purifiers. They protect and enrich biodiversity and are an important tool in the fight against climate change. ”

Forests provide us with numerous environmental goods and services

1. Firewood and wood

Many rural communities in developing countries still rely on firewood to cook and heat their homes, and local wood to build their homes and complementary facilities.

2. Wildlife habitat

The forest is the habitat of numerous wildlife species. The yaguareté, for example, has been declared a National Natural Monument (National Law No. 25463/2001) by the Administration of National Parks of Argentina and is considered in danger for that country. The tapir, on the other hand, is another species of forests that, according to the Biodiversity Information System (SIB, Argentina), is in danger in several countries in South America.

Both the yaguareté and the tapir, need huge areas of forest poorly modified to survive; For this reason, clearing and fragmentation of forests have directly harmed both species.

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3. Protection against rain and water availability

The forested masses guarantee the availability of water, even in times of drought, since the forest environment protects the aquifers and regulates both the entry and exit of water, also avoiding floods, erosion, and avalanches to which they are exposed. land without trees.

4. Recreation opportunities

The trails that cross forested areas represent one of the main attractions for tourism in different parts of the world. In Argentine Patagonia, thousands of visitors travel through the Patagonian Andean Forest, often through trails that run in mountainous areas of National Parks such as Lanín, Nahuel Huapi, Los Glaciares, and Los Alerces, among others.

5. Atmospheric carbon fixation

According to the WWF website (World Wide Fund for Nature) of Peru, in its section Forests and Climate Change, “in addition to its enormous natural and cultural value, Amazonian forests are an important regulator of the global climate since by capturing gases such as that of carbon dioxide prevents its concentration in the atmosphere and thereby reduces the greenhouse effect and the increase in temperature”.

6. Soil conservation and improvement

According to FAO, “soil is an important component of forests and forest ecosystems since it helps regulate important ecosystem processes, such as nutrient absorption, decomposition, and water availability. The soils provide anchorage, water, and nutrients to the trees. In turn, trees and other plants and types of vegetation are an important factor in creating a new soil when leaves and vegetation deteriorate and decompose. ”

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7. Fruits, mushrooms, and medicines

Avocado, olives, figs, apples and other fruits, come from trees. Essential oil is extracted from the leaves of some eucalyptus species, which has antibacterial properties and is also used to combat respiratory conditions. In Argentine and Chilean Patagonia, fungi that grow under the forests of some pine species represent a coveted food, which is generally dehydrated for culinary use.

We often value what we have only when we lose it

The Forest Service of the United States has published a poster, from the Smokey bear series (advertising icon of that service in the field of fire prevention in natural areas), which reads: "When You Lose A Forest, You Lose A Lot More Than Trees". Those who have suffered avalanches, floods, extreme droughts, shortage of firewood, or other phenomena as a result of the devastation of a forest, know well what the phrase refers to. Hopefully, it is not necessary to dismantle more forest areas to remember that, when a forest disappears, we not only lose trees.

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